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Newton community supports teacher whose home was destroyed by fire

Welcoming, generous, and supportive are just a few of the words used to describe the community of Newton as they came together to support Dan Fabrizio after a fire destroyed his home.

Waltham home fire displaces tenants after extensive damage in February.
Waltham home fire displaces tenants after extensive damage in February.PHOTO BY BOSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT

In February, Fabrizio, a Spanish teacher at Newton North High School, woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. He got out in time and watched the home burn down from the street, shaken but comforted by the community as neighbors offered hot cocoa and the chance to come inside and get warm.

Soon Fabrizio had support coming from every direction. Just days after the fire, Rebecca Willis Kayser, a single mother whose children have all gone through the Newton North school system, created a GoFundMe page to support Fabrizio and the rebuilding of his home.

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The GoFundMe page received instant traction from Newton residents and surrounding communities. Kayser said she had once gone through a near-death experience, and her daughter created a GoFundMe page to help her family through months of unemployment.

“When my daughter created my GoFundMe, she wrote multiple paragraphs about what I was going through and what I had endured,” Kayser said. “I wrote one sentence about Mr. Fabrizio, and the response has been very, very similar. It just really concluded to me that people don’t really care about the details, they just care about the fact that there’s a need, and whatever that need is they’re willing to step up and give.”

Fabrizio is still waiting to hear back from his insurance company. In the meantime, the GoFundMe page for Fabrizio originally had a set goal of $10,000 but has exceeded that goal. With 440 donors, the page has raised over $35,000.

When he first heard about the GoFundMe page and saw donations coming in, Fabrizo said he “burst out in tears.”

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“A lot of stuff was making me burst out in tears but just to see that was totally overwhelming,” Fabrizio said.

Fabrizio has also received lots of support from his colleagues at Newton North. Kate Shaughnessy, an English teacher at Newton North, said she donated to the fund and has watched the support from Fabrizio grow.

“It’s amazing to see,” Shaughnessy said. “At the same time, I’m not surprised because whenever there’s a struggle in the community, people’s first instinct is how can we help.”

Shaughnessy said it was noteworthy that the GoFundMe page came from a stranger in the community.

“I think that speaks volumes that this wasn’t created by someone who is best friends with Dan Fabrizio,” Shaughnessy said. “This was someone who just knew ‘Hey this is a member of our community.’”

Fabrizio, who has lived in Newton and worked at Newton North for 11 years, said he is “overwhelmed” by the amount of support he has received from his neighbors in Newton.

“I always knew it was a very special place,” Fabrizio said. “I know everyone says that about where they live and where they work, but I’ve always felt so welcomed here. I have felt such a wonderful connection to the families and to my colleagues, and to see them do this for me made me speechless — and I’m not often speechless.”

Jessica Stevens can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.